Three Questions: Wings-Blackhawks
DRW.com analyzes Game 3 of the Western Conference Final
The Wings battled back to force overtime, but the Blackhawks came out flying at the start of overtime, backed by a loud United Center crowd. With Dustin Byfuglien screening, goaltender Chris Osgood wasn’t able to control the rebound on a shot from the point. Sticks swung around in front of the Wings’ crease, and the puck ended up landing on Patrick Sharp’s stick, and he fired it into the empty net 1:52 into the first overtime. The Wings had battled back from an early 3-0 deficit, but they couldn’t finish it off in overtime.
What can the Wings take out of this one?
The Wings comeback was stunning, and it caught everyone but the men donning the winged wheel by surprise. It all started with a point shot from captain Nicklas Lidstrom that hit a skate and found the back of the net to make the score 3-1. Lidstrom recorded his fourth goal of the playoffs with 5:22 remaining in the second, and it jumpstarted the Wings’ offense. Less then three minutes later, Brian Rafalski fired in his third goal of the postseason from the point, and all of a sudden it was only 3-2. Then, with 59 seconds remaining in the second, Jonathan Ericsson found the back of the net for his second goal of the playoffs. It was three goals in under six minutes for the Wings, and a bunch of hanging jaws in the stands at the United Center.
The quick strike ousted goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who was replaced by Cristobal Huet for the start of the third. In fact, Khabibulin didn’t even return to the bench for the third period, as Corey Crawford dressed to serve as the back-up goaltender. No word yet on if Khabibulin is injured, but it sure did look impressive for the Wings’ offense that they chased a goalie in a game that looked out of reach.
What happened in the first period?
The Wings fell into a hole early when Dan Cleary was given a four-minute penalty for high-sticking six minutes in. Sharp had his first goal of the game on the man-advantage, and the United Center was on the verge of exploding. Andrew Ladd scored 1:05 later, and the Wings were looking at a two-goal deficit.
Then came the biggest penalty and blow to the Red Wings. About three minutes after Chicago’s second goal, Martin Havlat let a pass go through his skates along the boards in the Blackhawks’ end. Instead of playing it, Havlat let it go by, and defenseman Niklas Kronwall crushed him with a huge hit. Havlat laid motionless on the ice, and his teammates jumped to his defense. Johan Franzen and Byfuglien ended up with roughing minors, but the big penalties came to Kronwall – a five-minute major for interference, and a game misconduct.
The Wings lost Kronwall for the night on a hit that was questionable at best, because Havlat seemed to choose not to play the puck as it crossed under his feet. His ice-time was split up, but Jonathan Ericsson played for 23:35. It was the second key player lost for the Wings that day; Pavel Datsyuk was a game-time decision and did not dress. Datsyuk’s presence was missed at both ends throughout the night.